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Oxford United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Two Up, Two Down: Can you pick out the big positives & negatives from Sunderland’s performance?

It wasn’t all plain sailing, but Sunderland got the job done on Saturday. What are the biggest positives and negatives that we can take from the performance of the team?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Gav says...

Bailey Wright = Mr Consistent!

It’s fair to say that Bailey Wright has been one of Sunderland’s most consistent players this season, and I don’t feel as though he gets enough credit for it.

It’s amazing really when you remember back to the summer, where it appeared he was going to be bombed out to Wigan. Imagine if we had? He’s better off in our team than theirs, and I’m thankful that things worked out well for us in the end.

Whilst I believe Sunderland have the best squad in the league in terms of depth, it’s fair to say that the defence isn’t exactly perfect. Yet, we’ve kept a load of clean sheets recently and don’t concede anywhere near as many, and a large part of that is thanks to the form of Bailey, who was given the tough task on Saturday of holding together a back three flanked either side by a rookie left back and a central midfielder masquerading as a right back.

If he stays fit he’s worth keeping around, because in this form he’s Championship class.

Evans proves Neil was right to place faith in him

Corry Evans is the current whipping boy with a section of the fanbase, but in the last three games I think he’s performed well and deserves his place in the side.

Alex Neil doesn’t care much for the opinion of others, and he decided to keep he Northern Irishman in the team, much to the bemusement of fans who wondered when he’d get the job for some below-part performances.

Give both the player and the manager credit - it’s worked out well, and Evans was instrumental in our victory, holding together the midfield and scoring the important first goal - not something he’s done very often in his career.

As with many others, he’s coming into his own at just the right time.

Ross Stewart fails to score again!

It’s now eight games since Ross Stewart scored from open play. I know his game isn’t just about scoring goals - he got a fantastic assist for the winner, for instance - but we really have to find a way to get him scoring again. He’s our best forward and we need him hitting the onion bag more regularly again, as we’ll need him if we are to get promoted.

Which leads me on to my next point...

Wide players aren’t producing

Whilst a big part of the reason for Stewart’s lack of goals is, in my view, the lack of an Alex Pritchard in our team, it’s fair to say that our other wide players just aren’t producing.

Ross Stewart thrives on crosses into the box - so why are the deliveries so inconsistent?

I’m really not convinced by Jack Clarke at the minute, but he keeps starting games, and we have to expect more from Patrick Roberts too. I know beating their man and whipping it in isn’t necessarily their game, but with a striker as good as Stewart up top they need to do whatever is best for the team. They need to have the directive of getting the ball into dangerous areas for the big man, but for the mostpart it feels as though they prick around with it for too long and it often comes to nothing.

Just little tweaks really that will make a big difference.

Oxford United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says...

Top drawer

That second half save from Patterson was top class and looked for a while as if it would secure us a point, but following the winner it became even more important. He hasn’t had much to do in games recently but the lad is looking steady away for the most part, and if he can pull off stops like that one on Saturday and the tip over at Lincoln City when called upon then all the better.

The late show

Late winners, although tense, are great for morale. The gaffer is making a habit of turning one point into three with his substitutions, but the players can take some of the credit for that too - they seem to understand his tactical changes and have the ability to carry them out. Defoe’s decision to retire could have very easily knocked us, but the players have kept their heads down and just got on with things. I don’t think many clubs at this level have the quality we do - look at some of the players that weren’t even involved today for instance - but if we have those attacking options on the bench and continue to approach things in the right way I wouldn’t rule out more late goals in the coming weeks.

Not at our best

I felt there were a few misplaced passes and a couple of needless free kicks which allowed Oxford United to put some pressure on us. It is perhaps to be expected given how tense games are during the run and to be fair it didn’t matter in the end, but the last gasp winners are bad enough and I could do without the extra stress please!

Not at their best

Seeing Rotherham United start to wobble is annoying, not least because I don't want them going into our penultimate game still needing points. What is really frustrating though is the fact we are not close enough to capitalise; we are hitting form at a good time but who knows, if Neil had been appointed a bit sooner could we now have been in a position to put pressure on the top spots?

Oxford United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says...

Patto comes of age

A series of phenomenal saves were absolutely crucial to this result and full credit must go to Anthony Patterson for the wide range of shot stopping skills he displayed to keep Oxford out in the second half.

An academy player brought back from a loan spell at Notts County, Patto could easily have been overwhelmed at being thrown into the deep end of our promotion push, but he is improving by the week and has deservedly made the number one shirt his own.

Alex’s honest review

In his post match interview, Alex Neil was critical of his first half tactics and felt that he’d over-thought Oxford’s shape and had therefore overcomplicated matters.

He changed it in the second half and it’s credit to the likes of Elliot Embleton who once again came from the bench to make a huge impact.

Everyone playing their part

We might not be playing our best football of the season but we’re absolutely finding a way to win, which is vital.

Alex Neil made changes going into Saturday’s game and Jay Matete, who has been unlucky to lose his place in recent weeks, got on with the job and returned with a significant hand in our winning goal, as did Luke O’Nien, after finding himself starting from the bench.

Credit also to Lyndon Gooch, who simply does whatever is asked of him, regardless of whether he’s starting, or whatever position he is deployed in.

The selflessness and togetherness in the squad is great to see and will be crucial in the run-in.

It’s quite a chase!

After pushing for an automatic spot until January, a play off place almost looked a certainly if we failed to make the top two.

Now, after our spectacular fall from grace during January, we’re on a remarkable fun of form just to be holding onto sixth place, such has been the form of other sides around us.

It’s in our hands, but we simply have to keep winning between now and April 29th to make sure we go into extra games and keep our promotion hopes alive.

Oxford United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images
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